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Scherzer happy to bounce back in final first-half start

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Scherzer happy to bounce back in final first-half start

Max Scherzer and the Nationals entered the weekend with a decision to make between him starting Sunday's series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, or skipping his turn in interest of his availability for Tuesday's All-Star Game.

It wasn't a tough one in the end, they say, as Scherzer opted to face the Orioles instead of pitching in Cincinnati. He was coming off his worst outing of the 2015 season when he allowed five earned runs against the Reds and was intent on turning the page.

That goal was accomplished in convincing fashion, as Scherzer fell just one strike short of capturing his fourth complete game of the season. He finished with 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball, with seven strikeouts and no walks.

"After the start against Cincinnati where I didn't really have it, I wanted to come out here today and pitch as well as I can. I know what I'm capable of," he said.

The two runs Scherzer allowed came on solo homers by Adam Jones. One came in the first inning and one in the ninth, both were when Scherzer was within one strike of getting a third out.

"He was able to get it to a special place in this park. He just did a good job competing against me with two strikes and hitting my off-speed stuff. Credit to him," Scherzer said.

Scherzer finished with no walks for the fifth straight outing, a stretch of 39 2/3 consecutive frames.

"Starting with no walks allows you to pitch efficiently and pitch deep into games. That can always help the ballclub. I'm proud of that," he said.

Scherzer pitching on Sunday instead of the All-Star Game was noticed by his teammates as a decision to put the Nationals first and ahead of his own individual interests.

"It puts everything in perspective," Tyler Moore said. "It makes us know that we're more important. It's awesome to see."

"It's just Max. He's a competitor, he's a team-guy. He's a horse," Dan Uggla said. "There was never a doubt that he was going to pitch today. I'm sure he wanted to pitch in the All-Star Game, but it's team-first and then go get them after that."

Scherzer enters the All-Star break 10-7 with a 2.12 ERA. That's the best ERA he's ever had at the break, but Scherzer hopes to get even better in the second half, even while on pace for a career-high in innings pitched.

"I've done some good things here in the first half, but it's going to be even more important that I do better things in the second half because this is when it's going to matter. I know what it takes to win in these situations to get to October. Hopefully as a team we're able to play our best baseball and be able to get there," he said.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.